County's jobs picture remained steady in June

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

Clark County's economic recovery continued to amble forward in June, according to a state report issued Tuesday.

The employment picture showed little change in June. The preliminary jobless rate was 8.6 percent, reported Scott Bailey, labor economist with the Washington Employment Security Department. He expects the revised number for June to end up slightly greater than 10 percent, pushing it up from a revised 9.3 percent in May, but down year-over-year from 11 percent in June 2012.

Revised figures take into account those unemployed county residents who previously worked in Oregon.

Washington's unemployment rate also held fairly steady last month at 6.8 percent, with Oregon at 7.9 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate is 7.6 percent.

Through June, Clark County employment was up by 2,700 jobs from a year earlier. Hiring sectors included retailers, which added 200 new jobs last month, reacting to increased consumer spending in the first three months of the year. The period saw retail sales grow by more than 8 percent, according to figures released by the state on Monday.

"A tough retail climate has slowly gotten better," Bailey reported. He noted, however, June's retail employment gains were still less than half the average for the previous three months.

Other nonfarm sectors hiring in June were leisure and hospitality, at 200 jobs above the seasonal norm; construction and manufacturing, which added 200 jobs each; and professional and business services, at 300 jobs. K-12 education dropped 200 jobs in June, which Bailey said is not typical for the month.

For the year, Clark County's unemployment picture has slowly improved across most sectors, except in the health and education services industry, which has dropped 500 jobs through the year ending in June. The information/financial services category also has lagged other sectors, with employment remaining flat through June.

Other sectors of the county's workforce have continued to grow year-over-year, with manufacturing and transportation up by 500 jobs each for the year. Employment in the construction trades gained 800 jobs in Clark County over the year.

"Just like the good old days," Bailey wrote, "except at 9,300 jobs, (construction) is about 4,000 jobs below its peak."

He said Washington's labor force continued to increase -- adding 9,800 jobs in June -- while its unemployment rate held steady.

The conditions could persist for some time, Bailey said, "as people on the sidelines begin looking for work when they sense their prospects have moved from absolutely miserable to merely poor."

That poor job outlook apparently includes labor economists. Bailey's agency, the Employment Security Department, halved its regional economist positions earlier this month, resulting in a wider swath of responsibility for Bailey and his remaining five peers.